Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the strangest thing about this book?  How did you feel about?
  2. Then She Was Gone is, first and foremost, a mystery. Yet many questions are answered quite early on in the book. How soon did you guess what really happened to Ellie, and if you did, did it affect your enjoyment of the book?
  3. In the prologue, it says “Looking at it backward it was obvious all along.” Now that you’ve finished the novel, do you agree? What “warning signs” referred to in the prologue might Ellie have spotted if she’d been more aware?
  4. Did you think Lisa Jewell’s portrayal of Laurel and her journey was realistic? Could you relate to the way she dealt with her grief, or did you find it alienating?
  5. What was your impression of Poppy when she is first introduced? Did this change over the course of the book, and if so, how?
  6. Then She Was Gone is divided into six parts. Why do you think Lisa structured the book this way?
  7. For much of the book, Laurel and her daughter Hanna have a fraught relationship as Laurel fails to let go of unfavorable comparisons between Hanna and Ellie. Do you think it’s normal to have a favorite child? How should parents handle these feelings if they arise?
  8. Throughout the novel, Laurel has moments in which she feels something is not quite right, but often writes it off as paranoia as a result of losing her daughter. Have you ever written off your own concerns? How can you distinguish between when you are being pessimistic, and when you should trust your intuition?
  9. There are four different perspectives shown in the book, but only Noelle and Floyd’s narration are in first person. (actually Noelle is 2nd POV)  Why do you think Lisa chose to write their chapters in first person, directly addressing other characters, while Laurel and Ellie’s chapters were told through third person? What effect did this have on you as you read?
  10. Floyd and Noelle are both characters with some obsessive tendencies. What other similarities do they share, and in what ways are they different? Were you able to sympathize with either or both of them?
  11. In chapters from Ellie’s perspective, she repeatedly brings up the subject of blame, thinking of all the moments that led to what happened to her and what she “should” have done differently, or what others could have done to save her. As you read, did you find yourself blaming characters for the unforeseen consequences of the choices they made? If so, in which situations?
  12. At the end of the book, Laurel notes that she “hasn’t told Poppy the full truth” (page 351) about everything that happened. Do you think she ever will? How would Poppy react to learning the secrets of her background?
  13. What is your response to Hanna and Theo’s relationship?  Should Hanna have been “off limits”?
  14. How did you respond to Blue and Jake’s conversation with Laurel over Floyd’s dark aura?  
  15. Laurel says of Hanna, “ It should be you missing and Ellie eating beans on toast.” (p.10)  What do you think it must take for a mother to have such evil thoughts about her own daughter?
  16. How much does family dynamic play into how Noelle turned out?  She lost her sister and felt not worthy of her family. Is this reality or made up in her mind?
  17. Laurel googled Floyd and he certainly googled her.  How do we feel about googling people? Where do you draw the line and when did Laurel or Floyd cross it?
  18. SJ is a nude model and is in an affair with a married man.  How do you think she came to be in this position?
  19. Why does it appear that Noelle hates girls?  
  20. Do you agree with how Floyd handled the situation?  

Some questions adapted.

Recipes:

After Eight Mints

Queso & Chips (because that’s what we eat in Louisiana as an appetizer, according to Laurel)

Thai Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Chocolate Cake

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